Funky Donkey Cheese wraps up its six-year fun

Friday, April 9, 2004

After providing funk to the denizens of Cape Girardeau for six years, Funky Donkey Cheese is calling it quits. The band's shows tonight and tomorrow at the Rude Dog Pub will be its last.

The band cites the recent decisions by vocalist Beth Poole and guitarist Bryan Davidson to quit the band as the main reason for the breakup.

Davidson is moving to Chicago, and Poole's work schedule was not allowing her enough time to perform with the band.

Also, some band members felt it was time to move on before the band became stagnant.

"We decided to end it gracefully," said Sam Godwin, who provides bass and vocals. "We get to end it without all of us getting into a big fight, and that's something a lot bands don't get to do."

So the band -- made up of Sam Godwin, bass and vocals; Craig Marshall, keyboard and vocals; Josh Miller, trombone; Brian Brinker, drums; Rob Giles, trumpet; Bob Adcox, vocals; Bryan Davidson, guitar; Beth Poole, vocals; and Corey Easley, saxophone -- will end the way it began: as a group of friends who love to play music.

Funky Donkey Cheese was born out of dissatisfaction. Godwin and Marshall were music students at Southeast Missouri State University and felt limited to playing classical pieces and marches.

In 1998 they decided to make another attempt at forming a band. There had been previous efforts, but they all had fallen apart. Neither Marshall nor Godwin had any reason to think this latest effort would be any different.

"It's really hard to put a band together -- harder than you might think," Marshall said.

During class, Marshall and Godwin would draft a list of people they wanted to play in the band and then called them. From there the band was formed.

"It'd happen so many times. We'd have a band, and then it wouldn't happen," Godwin said. For the new band, "we got people who really wanted to be in the band. Everyone was in it wholeheartedly."

The latest band formation -- christened Funky Donkey Cheese because the founding members like funk music, donkeys and cheese -- was not formed with any achievements or goals in mind.

According to Marshall, "it was all just for fun, just for the love of making music."

The band members' background of musical training helped and hindered them.

Rehearsals were a breeze because everyone involved was familiar with preparing for school performances and knew what it took to get ready for a show.

Creating the actual music was what proved to be more difficult.

Although they had a firm understanding of a song's structure, the band's formal training prevented them from achieving the unstructured sound and atmosphere they wanted.

"We were trying to do everything as perfect as we could," said trombone player Josh Miller. "You have to loosen up. We were very structured at first."

Godwin said writing a simple song was a challenge at first because they would make it too difficult.

The band was playing "what was on the page instead of playing what's in the heart," he said.

Difficult and structured isn't what funk music is about, and funk music is what they wanted to play.

Funk is a stew made up of jazz, blues, rock 'n' roll, soul, and rhythm and blues.

The band members of Funky Donkey Cheese said they were influenced by performers such as Maceo Parker, Tower of Power, the Commodores and James Brown.

Strangely, none of the original lineup of Funky Donkey Cheese were a fan, or even were familiar with funk before they came to the university.

It's not that they did not like it. They just weren't familiar with it.

Godwin, Mitchell and Miller were used to listening to whatever was playing on popular radio.

Mitchell said he became interested in other music when he hosted a jazz show on the university's radio station.

Godwin said his musical interest progressed from country music to blues to rock and then to funk.

The ACME Blues Band, a Cape Girardeau band, also furthered the group's interest in funk.

"Once we heard [funk] and thought it was good, we realized we were missing out," Miller said.

"It's never been about how good you are musically. It's about how the music makes you feel," Marshall said. "The notes you play in funk aren't as important as how you play them, and that's not something we understood at first. It's an attitude."

Funky Donkey Cheese brought that funk attitude to small venues in Cape Girardeau for several years before deciding to bring it to an end.

For a large part of the band though, the music will continue in one form or another, as they are involved in one or more local bands that play shows in Cape Girardeau.

The end of Funky Donkey Cheese, however, is still bittersweet.

"No matter what else I do, I'll always think of this as my band," said vocalist Bob Adcox. "The last show will be pretty sad."

335-6611, extension 182

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